When I was 17, I won a competition for the state I lived in and got to go to Houston. (I won’t say what the competition was because it sounds antique!) Let’s just say I worked my butt off to win because I was already a huge fan of the west. Let’s compare, shall we?
WeatherI went to Houston in the summer and it was steamy. San Antonio in February is a hell of a lot better than February at home. I chucked off my coat, sat by the pool, and enjoyed spring fever early.
HotelIn Houston, I got stuck with a chain hotel. I can’t say enough good things about the Menger in San Antonio. Nicest hotel I ever went to for a conference. Beautiful Victorian furnishings and a western ambience. When I checked in, the guy behind the desk was dazzled that I was a writer. He even shook my hand and said writers sometimes demand special things like a certain drink. (I guess I should’ve demanded a Mojito delivered to my room every day.) The hauntings were cool too. I stood next to someone who had a ghost experience and saw some cool lights on one of the hall mirrors.
ChaperonesIn Houston, my chaperone did a disappearing act so I was on my own in the big city. In San Antonio, I didn’t need one. I explored the Alamo and the River Walk, and the hostesses (Regina Carlysle, Samantha Cayto, Cerise Deland, Desiree Holt, Allie Standifer, and Brenna Zinn) took care of every detail with finesse. You’d never know this was their first event. We’re hoping they do it again.
They even started the conference with a friendly fireside-type chat where they introduced themselves. At 17, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in the big-girl games like ring toss with an inflatable phallic symbol or Pin the Junk on the Hunk. Wouldn’t have been able to watch the live BDSM demo either.
DrinksAs you can see in the picture, I’m holding a bottle of Jack Daniels, but I was too young to drink it. During the decadent chocolate event at NSO, I took advantage of the cash bar and also enjoyed some sangria and margaritas while people watching on the River Walk. Now this is the life writers dream about.
MoneyYou can also see some dollar bills stuffed into my bodice. At the NSO, I saw LOTS of dollar bills -- mostly being stuffed into the G-strings of the talented male dancers from Hard Bodies. We had cowboy/cop guy, smooth city guy, and Native-American guy who even played with fire.
Romance NovelsAt 17, I passed the time reading a romance novel by Rosemary Rogers. I even sat at the desk with pen and paper, demanding myself to write a novel. Even then I knew I wanted to be a romance author. Now I know trips aren’t for writing but for being open to the book ideas that hit without warning. And I’m happy to say I achieved my dream. I am a published romance author.
FriendsAbandoned in Houston, I participated in all the group activities and made some new friends. I spent a day with a girl and her family at a nearby amusement park, and we exchanged letters for many years afterward. I met a lot of new friends at the NSO too, only now I connect with them on Facebook.
MenWhich brings me to the best subject of all. Men! In Houston, I attended the group event to go to a ranch for BBQ and western dancing. On the bus, I sat with a gorgeous male teacher from Kentucky. When I mentioned I was cold from the icy air conditioning, he enfolded my arm in his and rubbed it to warm it up. His wife and kid were sitting only a couple of seats behind us. Needless to say, I wasn’t cold after that. I was downright hot, in fact. On another night, I met a cute guy from Nevada at a group dance. We were lip-locked for hours. Unfortunately, I never heard from him again.
At NSO, we got to hang out with David Nieves and Cole Reilly, the perfect guys for the job.And may I say that the state of Texas has the hottest men around? I was even enjoying the male scenery at the airport.
PackingIn Houston, I had a smaller suitcase and didn’t take that much with me. Different story for NSO in San Antonio. I had to bring sexy shoes for the contest, denim and glitz, pink for the breast cancer fundraiser luncheon, and layers for all weather. Not to mention the shopping at the River Walk. At home, I’m too busy writing to shop so I sort of went wild.
I also won wine and a book by A.B. McKinley. Did a lot of strategic arranging to get it all to fit and barely got the suitcase closed. Wouldn’t you know that’s when my suitcase got searched? I must say they did a pretty good job of putting things back in the right place. Not sure what they thought of the swag that said things like -- so many men, so little rope. It’s a good thing I didn’t take home any sex toys from the demo. My poor cowboy hat will never look the same now.
I miss Texas even more than I did after the first trip. Brenna Zinn told me I look like a native, which I take as a huge compliment. I will be back a third time…
For some great pictures of the NSO event, check out Dalton Diaz’s blog post:
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Rose, Exposed -- 1930s erotic romance - coming soon from Ellora's Cave!